Why are Alexa and Siri designed to be so nice?

My Robot Gets Me: How Social Design Can Make New Products More Human, by Carla Diana. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2021; 304 pages, $30.

For decades, “user-friendly” has had a well-accepted definition: software and technology that is relatively easy for a novice to understand and make use of. As our devices have gotten steadily smarter, however, they’ve also become literally friendly. Alexa politely asks if you’d like more information on a topic. Your step-tracking app congratulates you on meeting your daily goal. Siri says “my pleasure” if you say “thank you” after it fulfills a request.

That last

From promotional use to business development: How drone technology has evolved within KAST Construction

KAST Construction, headquartered in West Palm Beach, Florida, first began using drone technology for the same reason so many of our customers do: for promotional use. When redesigning their website in 2019, KAST sought out aerial images captured by drones to display panoramic views of their sites. Impressed by the comprehensive analysis this provided, upper management saw potential in the space.

The VDC team decided to wait for an ideal project to fly to create a genuine use case for the data and generate executive buy-in. After achieving this, drones became an integral part of daily site evaluations, logistics

What should every civil engineering student learn in their first year of college?

Ah, freshman year of college.

So much hope, so much promise.

So many things to learn.

If you had to highlight one lesson any civil engineering student should learn during their first year in college, what would you pick? What’s the essential knowledge base a young civil engineer should build on for a career in the 2020s?

Here are some highlights from a recent ASCE Collaborate discussion addressing just this issue (and be sure to log in and contribute your own memories):

Yvonne Pawtowski, P.E., M.ASCE

Engineer, Gray and Osborne Inc., Arlington, Washington

“Communication skills are key. Whether you